Today was our first full day in Yellowstone. We started the day making a wrong turn. Not that big of a deal though since we had to see that side of the park sooner or later. We traveled up the western side of the park through the geyser fields. It was 30 degrees outside so it felt like we were driving through a forest fire with all the steam in the air. It was so steamy we barely saw much for the first hour of the day.
The last time I was in this area was March 1994. I was leaving Aspen and decided to see Yellowstone. I ended up driving around three sides of the park before finding out that the park was closed for snow removal. The park is so large that not even the park rangers seemed to know what was going on at the other entrances. In 1989, fire destroyed almost 50% of the park. Everywhere you looked today, succession was taking its course. Dead trees scorched in that fire still tower over thousands of new tree well on their way to maturity. Fire is good for the soil, turning naturally acidic soil more alkaline. It is also good for the forest floor. Fire burns the resin in the pine cones that holds the tightly bound seed. The heat melts the resin, releasing the seed from the pine cones that allow millions of new trees to germinate.
Steam from the geysers with a hillside of pine seedlings under dead trees.
We barely saw any wildlife today but we did see some great scenery. We traveled a one way road carved along the side of a hill. The whole trip traveled along steep drop-offs with a river below. We also saw the eastern side of the grand canyon of Yellowstone which was an awesome sight.